Home > Memories > Not So Wild(ish) Nowadays

Not So Wild(ish) Nowadays

When I re-shared Summer Of ‘69 I reminded myself that, although I didn’t plan it that way, it became the first of three posts in 2016 that saw me reminiscing about the 1969-70 period, during which I became 16, took on the ‘man of the house’ role after Dad left, and generally started to grow up a bit. But it was also a time for a lot of fun, too, so I thought that newer readers – and there have been a lot of you in the past three years – might also like to take my trip down memory lane. The second of those three posts was entitled ‘Born To Be Wild(ish)’ and I’m sharing it again now – the final part of my ‘trilogy’ will follow in a few days. I’ll drop by again at the end of the post to have another word on this.

Born To Be Wild(ish)

Do you ever find yourself looking back at earlier versions of yourself, and wondering about how different life was? As we get older, we have a lot more to look back on and while some might contend that we should always look ahead, and never look back, I think we can learn from our past. As I said in my post Summer of ’69 that was a momentous year for me. It was also the year that the movie Easy Rider first graced the screen – in June in the US, a little later in the UK – and it opened up the eyes of impressionable teenagers around the world to a way of life that was very different from our normal, humdrum existences.

If you haven’t seen the movie I’ll try to avoid spoilers, suffice it to say that it doesn’t end well! But for most of us at the time, that wasn’t the point. What we saw in the film was a lifestyle based on doing what you want to do, free from the constraints of regular life. Sure, it was fuelled by an illegal drug deal at the very beginning, but did we care? I know I didn’t! The concept of road movies hadn’t really been explored much until then, and the idea of watching 95 minutes of two guys riding motorbikes around was very strange to my parents: “what’s it about?” “that sounds boring” and “you aren’t old enough to see it” being just some of what they said. It was rated ‘X’ in the UK, which meant that you had to be 18 to be allowed into the cinema, but I somehow managed to raise my short, just-turned-16 frame enough to get past the prison cinema guards. Or maybe they were just glad to take anyone’s cash that they could!

I have the movie on DVD and occasionally dust it off for a viewing. Mostly, it now looks incredibly dated, a real period piece. But there is still much to enjoy in it, especially the scene accompanied by the Byrds’ song I Wasn’t Born To Follow, which is such a joyous expression of youthful freedom.

At 16, we all have dreams of what we want our lives to become, and a release from a late 1960s Britain, with economic troubles putting a real dampener on all the Swinging 60s stuff that had gone before, was incredibly appealing. We all wanted to do it! If you have read my Summer of ’69 you’ll know that I spent that school holiday working to earn the cash to buy my first motorised transport. This was where one of life’s major lessons first hit home: I was never going to be able to earn enough to buy a bike like Peter Fonda’s! So, with reality dawning rapidly, I adjusted my ambitions – another early life lesson – and bought myself a secondhand scooter, a Lambretta Ld to be precise. It wasn’t even the most recent model made by Lambretta, but it was mine! In case you’ve never heard of it – and you can be forgiven for that – this is what it looked like:

The same colour as mine!

The same colour as mine!

Suddenly, a whole new world opened up for me. I could go anywhere I wanted, without the need to consult copious bus timetables, and I really took advantage of this new freedom. I joined the local scooter club, called the ‘Saints’ for reasons no one actually knew, and as well as club nights we went on group outings. We often went to a place called Camber Sands, which was pretty desolate, although it did afford a lovely view of the nuclear power plant under construction at nearby Dungeness. But that didn’t matter to us – we enjoyed the camaraderie of the ride, the wind (and rain, lots of rain) in our hair, and as long as someone had remembered to bring a ball we had a game of football on the sands when we got there. I have been thinking about this post for some time, and it feels very poignant to be looking back at my own youth, and happy times, when the sea has just claimed the lives of five young men who had gone to the very same place to have a good day out. As I said, we can learn from our past: that could have been us. There was never any sign of a lifeguard there, and apparently there still isn’t, 47 years on. It always takes a tragedy for something necessary to be enacted, sadly. In our innocent youth, we don’t really think about potential dangers, do we? Life is for living, we’re young and it is all stretching out in front of us. Why worry?

The ultimate fashion item, c.1969!

The ultimate fashion item, c.1969!

Going back to buying the scooter and becoming part of the local ‘scene’, where the cool kids hung out – as if, in my dreams, etc. – it amuses me that despite the fact that what we thought we were looking for was a freedom from normality, we rapidly adopted a style that became our new normal. If you had a scooter but didn’t wear one of these (look left), you were nobody!

I didn’t quite manage to copy Peter Fonda’s crash helmet either. Although it wasn’t at that time illegal to ride a bike without wearing one, we prided ourselves on being a responsible scooter club, so I bought myself another fashion accessory, just like this one:

Stylish, or what!

Stylish, or what!

But we were happy, that was the most important thing to us. We may not have been like Wyatt and Billy in the movie, but we had a sense of freedom, and I felt that every single time I got on the scooter, even if I was only using it to go shopping or to go to school. In those moments, the world was all mine, and I felt a kind of invincibility. Admittedly, I didn’t feel quite the same way the day I came off it and embedded a stone in my arm, but that was just another life lesson: don’t be a prat! Looking back, through what are probably very rose-tinted spectacles, I do feel a sense of loss, the loss of the innocence of youth. I hope my 16 year old self would have approved of the way my life has developed: I may not be riding the breeze on the open road, but I’ve learnt to recognise how to find the best in life, and to enjoy it.

And finally, for anyone feeling short changed by the edited version of the song in the opening video, I leave you with a full version of what is still the best driving song I know:

And this is me again, now. It is a sobering, even slightly frightening, thought that the events I’m describing here took place exactly fifty years ago. It really does seem like another lifetime, although I still recognise it as a part of my life experience. But how times have changed! Social, political and technological developments have transformed the world in ways we couldn’t have envisaged back then. Much of this has been for the general good, but I’m not convinced that we are living in a completely better place than in 1969. Then again, utopia is probably an impossible dream! For me, personally, much about my life is better than in my teenage years, but I look back fondly on those days of innocence. I’m facing some big changes in my life this year, which are causing me some apprehension – maybe I’ll be writing about those at some point but, for now, I’m happy to keep on the rose tinted glasses through which I’m viewing 1969. It is my way of dealing with what feel like major threats to my mental well-being. Reality does have a way of intruding on us, doesn’t it, and life feels anything but wild just now.

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  1. February 28, 2019 at 9:54 am

    I love the look of your scooter and helmet … no wonder you felt as if you’d arrived and the whole world was waiting to be explored! Even if not much further than Camber Sands! 😀 The feeling of independence and freedom is a potent one, and those initial years of innocence and youth stays firmly embedded within our heart and minds. I’ve never seen Easy Rider but the image is iconic of road movies … interesting that this was one of the first one of its kind – an ever popular genre. Don’t we all feel like escaping, just leaving everything behind, at some stage in our lives. Pivotal years of your young self eloquently described here, Clive. As for the now and future, I hope all works out for you and goes well. Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 28, 2019 at 10:41 am

      Thank you! They were important to my growing up, and you’re so right about the sense of freedom we all felt back then. Easy Rider is still such an iconic movie, and we all wanted to be Peter Fonda. Thanks for your good wishes 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      • February 28, 2019 at 2:23 pm

        I was impressed by the quality of the film on your post and it is a film I’ve always meant to watch … you nudged me closer!

        Liked by 1 person

      • February 28, 2019 at 2:49 pm

        To be honest it seemed a bit sharper than my dvd copy – must have been in HD! Well worth a watch, though it does feel a bit of a period piece nowadays.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. February 27, 2019 at 8:17 am

    So many changes since that time Clive, but you are the way you are because of them. Life certainly was very different and I agree we’re not living in the perfect place right now. I sort of miss those days of innocence of our youth. Glad this is helping you work through some things too, it’s so interesting seeing into other people’s lives, so thanks for sharing your memories with us. #seniorsalon

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 27, 2019 at 9:16 am

      Thanks Debbie. I miss that innocence too, but there are benefits in experience to counterbalance that loss, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. February 26, 2019 at 5:38 pm

    I never had a scooter, Clive, but we used to get around as kids on bicycles. I progressed to a car when I was 18 years old and I can remember going to the petrol station and being to scared to drive near the pumps so the attendant had to help me. So funny, looking back. It is wonderful to have good memories of your youth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 26, 2019 at 6:14 pm

      We had bikes too, and used to ride some silly distances until we were old enough to become motorised. My first visit to a petrol station was a bit like that – the scooter had a 2 stroke engine that meant I always needed help from the attendant to get the mixture right. It is a little shocking to think that this was fifty years ago for me!

      Like

  4. February 26, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    I always enjoy looking back at my distant past and thinking about it, Clive. Only yesterday, I was going through a suitcase full of old photos with my aunt who is 92-years-old on Thursday. She told me to take some of them, but I didn’t have the heart. Then, when I got home, I found she had stuffed two of the photos into my coat pocket.
    Your memories are lovely to read and took me back to the late 60s, too. Life certainly seemed quieter then, but I sat and asked myself if it was really quiet back then? Reading your post also reminded me of the movie ‘Quadrophenia.’ After watching the movie, I wanted to be a ‘mod’ rather than a ‘rocker.’ I also remember how both groups used to gather on Brighton beach on a bank holiday.
    Thanks for sharing your memories from ’69. And I hope the big changes you mentioned in this post go as you want them too and don’t cause you anymore apprehension.

    Liked by 3 people

    • February 26, 2019 at 6:10 pm

      There is something to be said for remembering our past, as long as we accept the reality of life as it is now. Your aunt was kind to give you those photos – I have very few from my youth, and can never fill the gap. I don’t think life was all that quiet then: we had the Cold War, the social unrest throughout Europe, particularly in 1968, the Vietnam War was casting its shadow on the world. The issues may change but problems remain. At 16 I’m not sure that I really understood that, though! We had the Mods and Rockers thing too – I was once chased through Dover by a motorbike on a Bank Holiday. Luckily I knew where to lead him: to a road that ended with bollards, which didn’t do much for his sidecar!

      Thanks for your kind words – I’m not looking forward to the next few months. But hey, life goes on.

      Liked by 2 people

      • February 27, 2019 at 10:15 am

        Like you said, I think I was too young to really know what was going on in the world back then, Clive. My days were filled with playing, laughter, my first years at school, making new friends, as well as watching TV (with only three channels) in black and white. The days and years seemed much longer, and I can certainly remember that society was a lot friendlier with the neighbours knowing each other. Much of that has disappeared in this day and age.

        Liked by 1 person

      • February 27, 2019 at 10:48 am

        Indeed. We have lost a lot of that, and I think we are worse off for it.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. February 26, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    I still haven’t seen the film “Easy Rider” Clive, but I do love the Steppenwolf version of Born to be Wild.

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 26, 2019 at 4:15 pm

      It’s very much a period piece now, Brigid – feels a little dated but worth a watch for the great soundtrack and the usual over the top performance by Jack Nicholson. Steppenwolf’s version is the original and best, and really has stood the test of time for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. February 26, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    Were you a ‘Mod’ Clive? Ha ha, we may have been at Camber Sands at the same time, as my parents often took me to the Pontin’s holiday camp there. Idyllic days, weren’t they?

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 26, 2019 at 3:40 pm

      Kind of – went for long hair rather than the skinhead look! We may well have been there at the same time – if you remember a group of yobs playing football that was probably us! Happy days indeed 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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